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Three talking points from Almeria 0-2 Barcelona

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Photo by JORGE GUERRERO/AFP via Getty Images

Two games remain in La Liga, and Barcelona are four points clear of Girona on the league standings in clear second place.

Last night’s win, in many ways, guaranteed the Catalans’ participation in next season’s Spanish Super Cup in what is a major financial relief for the management. The three points, however, did not come easy.

Xavi and Co. may have dominated the possession on the night, but they were far from dominant in terms of chances created. Almeria, in fact, had multiple chances to get back into the game and complicate the proceedings against the Blaugrana.

Barça Universal brings you three takeaways from the team’s 2-0 win on the night which was inspired by a Fermin Lopez brace.

Fermin’s 10/10 performance

Thursday night’s win at the Power Horse Stadium was all about Fermin Lopez. The youngster, with his exploits on the night, became Barcelona’s second-highest goalscorer of the season in La Liga and now has seven goals in just 12 starts.

With Ilkay Gundogan suspended and Frenkie de Jong out through injury, the La Masia starlet joined forces with Pedri and Sergi Roberto in midfield. However, his position was restricted to the middle of the park only on paper.

As has always been Lopez’s role, he pushed forward in attack regularly with runs in between the lines, looking to unlock Almeria’s defence. Unsurprisingly, it was him to struck gold twice on the night.

In just the fourteenth minute, the young attacking midfielder powered a run into the Almeria area to get onto the end of Hector Fort’s cross and worked a superb header into the back of the net.

When the team’s play once again looked bland and Almeria were beginning to take the upper hand, Lopez struck again with a similar move. Once again unmarked in front of goal, this time he received a great ball from Sergi Roberto and pummelled it into the netting.

Apart from his goalscoring heroics, the 21-year-old recorded three key passes, four shots on target, completed 100% of his long balls, and 100% of his dribbles and recorded eight defensive actions.

The Hector Fort question

Xavi delivered good rotations in his starting lineup last night as promised, but the most surprising inclusion of them all was young Hector Fort at left-back. Replacing Joao Cancelo on the flank, he was put to the test from the get-go and did not disappoint.

Hector Fort impressed vs Almeria. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Playing 73 minutes at Estadio del Mediterraneo, Fort was solid in defence, arguably more secure than Cancelo is himself. He recorded one clearance, a tackle and won one duel while also making a tangible impact in attack.

The academy graduate’s most notable contribution on the night was his assist for Fermin’s opener, which was a delight to watch in itself. Receiving the ball from Martinez, he did well to cut onto his right foot and fired a well-weighted cross into the centre of the box.

Considering that Joao Cancelo has only three assists as Barcelona’s regular left-back this season and 30 appearances, Fort’s tally of two assists in six appearances holds great promise.

Looking ahead to next season, the question thus arises if Barcelona can count on the 17-year-old as a legitimate starting option if Cancelo does not continue at the club next season.

The internal turmoil

There is a whole lot wrong behind the scenes at FC Barcelona, and the scenario does not look good heading into the summer transfer window. Uncertainty, after all, looms large once more in the Catalan capital.

Weeks after announcing his continuity, Xavi seems to have suffered a serious falling out with the management with his recent comments and its impact is visible on the field as well.

For starters, Barcelona looked largely lethargic through Thursday night’s game and the defence, yet again, was all over the place. Almeria, in fact, were unlucky to have not got on the scoresheet with the chances they enjoyed as Barcelona’s slump in quality continued.

Xavi’s decision to call on Roque, just days after reportedly asking his the player’s departure and speaking about the same, came as yet another confusing factor. 

The Brazilian came on to play his first minutes in over a month and one is forced to wonder if the manager was forced to play the youngster owing to internal pressure.

Word has it that Xavi may not see the daylight in Catalonia beyond this season, and the club’s summer transfer plans suddenly look to be in danger once more. The coming days will be critical.

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